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W&M alumnae and professor collaborate on new high-school Spanish language program and text

  • Collaboration:
    Collaboration:  Janet Dannemiller Parker (left), adjunct instructor of foreign language education, worked with three alumni, including Megan Packett Cory '07 (right), to create an innovative Spanish language program for use in high-school classrooms.  
  • Collaboration:
    Collaboration:  Catherine Schwenkler '06, M.A.Ed. '09 was another member of the team to collaborate on {em}Entreculturas{/em}, which focuses on teaching Spanish through the lens of interculturality.  
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William & Mary alumnae Megan Packett Cory ‘07, Catherine Schwenkler ’06, M.A.Ed. ’09 and Paulina Carrion M.A.Ed. ‘11, all graduates of the School of Education's secondary foreign language teaching program, recently collaborated on an innovative Spanish language program for use in high-school Spanish classrooms.

The program, EntreCulturas 2, focuses on teaching novice to intermediate learners the Spanish language through the lens of interculturality, so they can discover appropriate ways to interact with others whose perspectives may be different from their own. Moving away from a strict emphasis on grammatical accuracy allows students to take more risks using the language and more completely experience different cultures.

The project was shepherded by Janet Dannemiller Parker, who is an adjunct instructor of foreign language education at William & Mary as well as the curriculum development consultant for Wayside Publishing, which is publishing EntreCulturas 1, 2, and 3.

For Parker, maintaining connections with alumni leads to exciting new opportunities for collaboration. “It’s all about relationships and staying in touch with program graduates as they launch their teaching careers”, said Parker.

EntreCulturas is the second collaboration among the authors. When Parker had the opportunity to work on a pre-AP/IB Spanish textbook for Wayside Publishing in 2012, she chose Cory and Schwenkler as her co-authors. They focused on the research-based best practices that Parker teaches in her Foreign Language Education Methods class and published Tejidos in 2013. Parker, Cory and Schwenkler have presented at local, state, regional and national world language conferences since its publication, and Tejidos has become a bestseller, used nationally and internationally.

Due to the success of Tejidos, Wayside Publishing started receiving requests for a Spanish levels 1-3 series incorporating current research-based pedagogy. When Wayside approached Parker about the project, she took on the role of curriculum development consultant, coordinating the work of eleven authors on three teams to produce the series.

Schwenkler and Cory began working as lead authors on the Spanish level 2 program. When a third author was needed to complete the team, Parker reached out to another former master’s student, Paulina Carrion, language coordinator and Spanish instructor in William & Mary’s Department of Modern Languages & Literatures, to round out the team. “William & Mary School of Education graduates are future leaders in the world language field,” said Parker. “They integrate the most current knowledge of research and best practice in their classrooms, thereby making them the best authors to connect with today's 21st century learners.”

Unique features of the program include video blogs featuring teenagers from various Spanish-speaking cultures, as well as authentic articles, interviews and literature written for native Spanish speakers. Animated videos facilitate a flipped classroom approach to grammar instruction. Using an inquiry-based approach, students are given comprehensible input and then guided to form their own ideas about how Spanish grammar works. Communicative and intercultural Can-Do statements are interwoven throughout the text for students to self-assess their progress and upload evidence to a digital portfolio.

The authors were guided by backward design and research-based best practices in learning languages. The proficiency-driven program is framed by essential questions and includes performance assessments that reflect real-world contexts. EntreCulturas integrates technology, scaffolding and differentiated activities to meet the needs to all learners.

EntreCulturas has been so well received that a new French series is being developed to build on its success, with Parker continuing to serve as curriculum development consultant. Jan Hagedorn M.A.Ed. ‘07 was recently selected as an author for the upcoming French series, currently in production with Wayside Publishing.